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Accessing GP Practices In Gloucestershire

Written by on 25th February 2021

Over 600 Gloucestershire residents have told Healthwatch Gloucestershire what they like and don’t like about the way their GP Practice communicates and interacts with them. In response, the local health and care champion has published its findings in a new report, Accessing GP Practices in Gloucestershire, and is calling on GP Practices to think more about their patients’ individual needs to help improve access to care.

As a result of Covid-19, new ways of delivering GP health and care services have been introduced, including digital and remote methods of communicating and consulting. People are being told to look online for information and contact is being made through video calls, email, text and phone. Social distancing and safety measures such as face masks and reduced face-to-face meetings are also having a significant impact on how people communicate and how health and care is being delivered.  

Following a rise in public feedback about access to GP care, Healthwatch Gloucestershire decided to investigate further. Four main areas of inquiry were identified: access to GP appointments, use of technology, the attitude of surgery staff, and access to quality information.

Over a two-week period in November and December 2020, Healthwatch Gloucestershire gathered public feedback through an online survey, social media polls, one-to-one interviews and focus group discussions, including a discussion with a group from the Gloucestershire Deaf Association. In addition, Healthwatch Gloucestershire volunteers carried out a structured review and analysis of all Gloucestershire GP websites, to assess the quality of information available and how easy this is to find and use.

The Healthwatch Gloucestershire report highlights that while new ways of communicating and delivering care work well for some people, for many others they present new challenges and barriers. Several common areas of feedback were identified.

What people like about the way their GP Practice works

  • Having a variety of ways to contact and book appointments with a GP and other Practice staff.
  • The different methods available to have a consultation with a GP, such as telephone or videocalls, as well as face-to-face.
  • A telephone holding system that tells people where they are in the queue.
  • Prescription ordering systems have been improved since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • People value being listened to and treated as an individual.

What people think could be improved about the way GP Practices work

  • The eConsult online communication system is frustrating and off-putting because it is too complicated, asks too many questions, and does not flow. The option to send a message to the GP Practice is much better received.
  • Not knowing when to expect a call back from the GP causes inconvenience and frustration.
  • Where the option to book appointments online has been removed, this is missed.
  • People feel that GP Practice staff do not always give them enough time nor their full attention, and they do not always feel listened to or treated as an individual.
  • People do not like having to repeat their story to different GPs.
  • A significant minority of people felt that staff do not communicate effectively with people who are living with Dementia.
  • The different ways to engage with the GP are not always made clear to the public.
  • Although GP Practice websites generally hold all relevant information, they are not always user-friendly, easy to navigate, nor completely accessible.

In the report, Healthwatch Gloucestershire makes several recommendations to help GP Practices address patient feedback and improve access to the care services they provide. The report has been shared with NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). 

Helen Webb, Healthwatch Gloucestershire Manager, commented: “This was a wide-reaching public consultation that has shone a light on people’s recent experiences of dealing with GP Practices. As you might expect, opinions varied hugely, but one thing became clear about people’s preferences for contacting their GP Practice and having consultations – one size does not fit all. Our report provides valuable patient insight that will help those who commission and provide GP services in Gloucestershire to make care even better.

“I would like to thank every person who took the time to share their experiences with us and our volunteers who carefully reviewed GP Practice websites. A special thank you to the Gloucestershire Deaf Association for their collaboration on our focus group, which gave heartfelt feedback and practical solutions to overcoming barriers to access.”

Becky Parish, Associate Director of Engagement and Experience, NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, welcomed the report: “Thank you to the Healthwatch Gloucestershire team and volunteers for undertaking this research into local people’s experience of accessing care through GP Practices in Gloucestershire during the pandemic; and for sharing the results with us. This report, together with other feedback we have collected over the last year, will help us to develop the local primary care offer to our patients into the future.”

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